ASTON, Pa. — After a wonderful communal Christmas celebration and a few days of vacation, the formation students of Holy Name Province gathered at the Franciscan Renewal Center during the first week of January for the annual formation intersession program. The week provided us an opportunity for fraternity, both among ourselves and with the Provincial Council members, as well as time to reflect on and develop our sense of Franciscan leadership for the 21st century.
Leadership in the Franciscan Tradition
This year’s topic, “Franciscan Leadership and Creating Better Social Worlds,” was presented by Dr. Pauline Albert. A graduate of Emory University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Albert worked for many years in banking and finance, served as a consultant to IBM and Xerox, and had a successful career at Intel. She has also held several positions in higher education. Dr. Albert later earned her doctorate in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University. Her dissertation focused on the leadership style of Francis and Clare.
Dr. Albert’s presentations introduced us to new aspects of Francis and Clare’s lives, namely how they became such efficacious leaders in the Church. She illustrated how Francis and Clare led by finding the gifts in others and encouraging them. There wasn’t a focus on wielding power, but on empowering others.
George Camacho, OFM, said, “Dr. Albert’s discussion on the leadership style and gifts of Francis and Clare was inspiring. She noted that leadership is about how we use our gifts and empower others. In spite of the difficulties, Francis and Clare became like the poor and inspired a movement of ‘fellow travelers’ seeking to do the same.” Dr. Albert also highlighted the need for prayer, reflection and discernment. We had ample time to reflect on her presentations, and share our thoughts in both large and small groups.
Postulant Aaron Richardson was impressed by his first intersession experience: “I liked that there was a strong spiritual element to Dr. Albert’s presentation. It was a good reminder for me that we need to be prayerful, and that the work that we do in the world must be rooted in a deep prayer life. I really enjoyed the fraternal time.”
A Life-giving Fraternity
Fraternal time was abundant during our time in Aston. We celebrated the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours together each day and enjoyed long conversations over meals. On Tuesday evening, the formation students and the Provincial Council gathered for a pizza party and fellowship. For student John Aherne, OFM, this was one of the highlights of the week: “The most enjoyable evening was the cold night when we ordered a few pizzas and spent some time with the men on the Council — not in their capacity as ‘leaders’ who are guiding the Province into the future, but as our brothers, who are living out the Franciscan charism one day at a time.” On the other evenings, after dinner, the students gathered together to play games and socialize, with some friars staying up later than usual while enjoying each other’s company.
“Each year, intersession is a time of great joy for me,” said Casey Cole, OFM. “The brothers are given time away from school and ministry with nothing else to do except be with one another. I think the intentional environment really fosters fraternal sharing, late night conversations and life-giving laughs.”
Postulant Angel Vazquez was also struck by the fraternal aspect of the week: “There is something about going to these workshops that brings out the fraternal side of all the brothers — from the sharing of ideas and fostering learning in the workshop to the humorous and competitive games in our down time. These are the moments I will always fondly remember.”
Everyone was in agreement that the intersession gave us new and insightful ideas about leadership in the Franciscan tradition, and allowed us to further develop and deepen our fraternity. As we begin a new academic term and return to our ministries, we look forward to putting these insights into practice. As Provincial Councilor William Beaudin, OFM, reminded us during one of our liturgies, God gives us an overabundance of gifts; it is our job to put them to use in order to better our world.
— Br. Dennis, a resident of Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., is working toward a master of divinity degree at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Biographical information about Dennis and other HNP friars in formation can be found on the Meet Our Student Friars page of BeAFranciscan.org.